I love this time of year. It’s a little cheesy, but it always feels appropriate to take a few forced vacation days to relax, reflect on the year that’s passed, and start thinking about the year ahead.
It’s been said a thousand times, but the music industry changes fast. And, it’s now changing faster than ever. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a 2019 release strategy, because I will be releasing a bunch of music this year.
In this guide, I’m going to collect my thoughts for you on where the industry will take us in 2019, based on conversations I’ve had with people in the industry, my own experiences, and my own research.
Of course, I’ll probably miss the mark on some of these (or maybe all of them) but reflection is a valuable practice, and I hope you’ll learn something.
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You’ll Be Able To Upload Music Directly To Spotify & Other Streaming Services
2019 may deal a weighty blow to distribution companies.
Currently, 100 hand-picked artists can upload content directly to Spotify without going through a distributor.
Cutting out the distributor could mean more royalties for the artist, and more opportunities for exclusive content for Spotify.
I also like the idea of being able to control your Spotify page more – if you’ve ever released a song and had it appear under the wrong artist name, you know what I’m talking about.
On the other hand, 20,000 songs are uploaded to streaming platforms every day.
I don’t necessarily think that Spotify will open the gates to every artist, making it possible for anyone to upload anything to the platform, but it is interesting that they are experimenting with this idea.
If they open this up to more musicians, perhaps they will require a verification process for direct uploading.
Either way, I’m in favor of busting down traditional music industry gatekeepers and barriers like age, and giving artists more power to release what they want to release, when they want to release it, and where.
Slow Death Of Traditional Music Publicists
The role of publicists in an indie musician’s career is changing.
I’ve been getting a team together for my 2019 releases, and in talking to publicists, I realized they are all charging the same prices, for services that they can no longer guarantee, and that I’m no longer interested in.
Four years ago, I hired a publicist to help me with traditional media, and it was… okay.
We played breakfast television, had some interviews in paper publications, and got some reviews online.
This year, with four years of experience behind me, I’ll tell you what I’ve found.
Breakfast television is a waste of time, and I never want to do it ever again. I don’t trust anyone that gets up that early anyway.
Nobody reads paper publications anymore, and publicists can’t guarantee coverage anyway. There’s no longer a budget to cover small touring bands – you’ll only get coverage if you’re so famous you don’t need a publicist, or if you’re a local band.
A lot of traditional publicists have missed the boat and fallen behind with online media.
The PR company I’m working with now focuses on three things:
Streaming Playlists, Large & Small
A good PR company in 2019 will have dozens of connections with playlist curators both on the platform side and the independent side.
Blog & Article Coverage
A good PR company will know which blogs are into your kind of music and will pitch you for the right opportunities.
This probably does not include album reviews. Nobody does those anymore, because they don’t get clicks.
Instead, they’ll be pitching you for articles that feature a bunch of artists (more clicks) or premieres.
Worthwhile Traditional Media
Of course, there are some contacts in traditional media worth having.
College radio stations are still a thing, and so is public radio.
Some physical publications still have a reputation worth exploiting – you probably know the ones in your local and national scene.
Keep your eye out for publicists offering more modern services and watch as traditional publicists struggle to keep up.
More Promoters Will Be Focusing On Diverse & Equal Bills
Having a local bill that is all white male fronted bands seems very passé in 2019.
I recently played a bill that was stocked like this, and it just felt weird.
As more and more major festivals book their bill with 50/50 male and female artists and are focusing on cultural diversity, I think it will become clear that this is the way forward.
If you’re an indie artist putting together your own bills locally or on the road, keep this in mind. It’s always better to be ahead of these social curves, and as a general idea, I think it’s good to put together diverse lineups. It’ll make for a more interesting show at any rate.
Indie Artists Are Going To Release More Slowly
This is a big one that I’ve been discussing with others. Here’s why artists are going to be releasing albums over the course of five to six months.
Spotify takes around four weeks to process a single and get it on playlists.
You can now submit your songs directly to playlists – this is awesome for artists.
It also means that playlist curators have a lot of music to sift through.
Releasing a song every four to six weeks seems to work relatively well with Spotify’s algorithm. It keeps your fan base engaged and keeps listenership up.
Similarly, music blogs are no longer churning out reviews and premieres.
There is just too much music out there to do that.
Instead, more blogs are doing pieces like “The 8 best indie acoustic songs released this month” or “Our favorite releases this Summer”.
This style of article means that you can release a single at the top of the month, but have press pick it up near the end of the month.
Singles used to roll over in about 48 hours – now, their life has been extended, with playlisting and blogging.
Artificial Intelligence Will Write A Hit Song
This one is kind of strange – but it you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that AI has been able to write good music for a while.
I don’t think it’s a leap of the imagination to say there will be a hit song – probably a hip hop song – with a beat created by AI.
There’s already a huge industry around creating beats for artists to develop. Imagine having an AI program creating something unique for you, and this AI has listened to thousands of hours of the latest and greatest music.
It’s going to happen, and I’m curious to see how it will shake out.